Santee Cooper Applied for National Broadband Infrastructure Grant
SCiway, created in partnership with the South Carolina Broadband Office, would reach unserved rural communities.
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – Santee Cooper yesterday applied for a National Transportation and Information Administration (NTIA) federal grant to fund a pilot project aimed at providing reliable, resilient broadband access to areas of South Carolina with the highest levels of poverty. The project was created in partnership with the South Carolina Broadband Office (SCBBO), part of the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS).
If funded, the SCiway pilot project would leverage Santee Cooper’s existing dark fiber, the utility’s in-kind contribution to the project, to bring broadband access more quickly and broadly to underserved and unserved areas of the State.
“Broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and the pandemic highlighted weaknesses in broadband access in South Carolina, particularly for those individuals living in rural areas,” said Jim Stritzinger, Director, SCBBO.
“We are in a unique position to assist rural South Carolinians by building upon essential resources and dark fiber we already have in place,” said Jimmy Staton, Santee Cooper President and CEO. “Working together with the SCBBO, we have studied this challenge and proposed a creative solution that could be a gamechanger for South Carolinians in the near future.”
Specifically, grant funding would help cover the costs of electronics and ready-made fiber interconnects, or “on ramps,” that would make fiber access more easily and readily accessible to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) statewide. This includes access to aerial fiber and nearly a dozen new “on ramps.” As part of the plan, ISPs also would have the benefit of free dark fiber access for an initial two-year period to help identify its best potential for retail providers.
If funded, the SCiway pilot project would immediately impact (within a 3-mile buffer):
- 54% of the State (25 out of 46 counties) and six out of seven South Carolina Congressional Districts.
- 263 “Community Anchor Institutions,” which include community support organizations/agencies providing outreach, access, equipment and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations.
- 42,126 unserved/underserved homes, 6,717 of which are HUD-qualified homes.
- 91,463 residents, which includes 12,465 public K-12 and 7,270 SNAP/TANF recipients.
SCiway has been designed specifically to facilitate NTIA’s two key objectives: (1) encouraging the expansion and extension of middle-mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting unserved and underserved areas to the backbone of the internet, and (2) promoting broadband connection resiliency through the creation of alternative network connection paths that can be designed to prevent single points of failure on a broadband network.